They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.…
In the first verse a fact is stated; in the second verse an inference is drawn; and our business will lie with the showing you that the inference is just, The stated fact is, that the wicked have less of trouble than other men — and this fact we shall assume without any endeavour to prove; the inference which the psalmist drew was, that on this account, on account of their comparative exemption from tribulation and the changes and chances of life, the wicked remain the wicked — "compassed with pride as a chain, and covered with violence as a garment." And here therefore is the principle, which we shall endeavour to exhibit and establish; — namely, that continuance in wickedness is a natural consequence of exemption from trouble. You have the same principle announced in other portions of Scripture; so that we shall not be building on a solitary passage, in laying before you an important topic (Jeremiah 48:11; Psalm 55:19). We are well aware, that so natural is the desire for prosperity, and the aversion from the trials and changes of life/ that we may expect to have prejudices and inclinations arrayed against us, as we attempt to make good the position derivable from our text; but nevertheless, the cases we shall have to describe are so common, and the reasons we shall have to advance so simple, that we may calculate on obtaining the assent of the understanding, if not on overcoming the repugnance of the heart.
I. And we shall perhaps best compass our design by endeavouring to show you, in the first place, THE TENDENCIES OF A STATE IN WHICH THERE ARE NO ADVERSE CHANGES. We may not hesitate be affirm of prosperity that it is far harder to bear than adversity. We may apply to it the remarkable words of Solomon in reference to praise: "As the fining-pot for silver, and the furnace for gold, so is a man to his praise." As though he had said, that praise as much tries a man, and detects what is in him, as the fire of the furnace the metals submitted to its alchemy. You will occasionally meet with cases in which there appear to have been few or none of the thwartings of what is called Fortune; whatsoever has been undertaken has succeeded, and the individuals have worn all the aspect of being the favourites of some overruling power, with whom it rested to dispense the good and the evil of life. And where there has not been from the first a course of unbroken prosperity, there will often set in a sudden tide of success, and the man is borne along year after year on the waters of this tide, with no storms to retard him, and no rocks to endanger. This is far enough from uncommon, especially in a commercial community. But with such men attachment to earthly things grows with their acquirement; and if not impossible it is a thing of extraordinary rareness and difficulty to have the affections fixed on things above whilst the hands are uninterruptedly busied with sweeping together perishable riches. The man who is never made uneasy upon earth, is naturally almost sure to take it as his home, and to settle himself down as though it were never to be left. Thus the reasons are plain and convincing, not to be easily overlooked nor controverted, which go to the proving of prosperity, that it has a tendency to keep men at a distance from God. Undoubtedly the grace of God, mighty at overcoming every obstacle to conversion and every impediment to piety, may enable a man, under circumstances the least favourable to religious improvement, to seek and to know "the things which belong to his peace"; but we now speak only of the natural and direct tendencies of prosperity, allowing that they may indeed be counteracted, though not perhaps without some more special assistances, than we are ordinarily warranted in expecting from above.
II. Now, in thus showing the dangerous tendencies of an unbroken prosperity, we have in a measure also shown you THE BENEFICIAL RESULTS OF CHANGE AND CALAMITY; but the advantageousness of "being in trouble as other men," of "being plagued like other men," is too important a truth to be dismissed as a mere inference from what we have already established. We wish, therefore, now, to give ourselves to the separate consideration of this second truth: the truth, that it is the direct tendency of adverse changes in our circumstances to make us more attentive to religious duties, and more earnest in seeking those things which God promises to His people. We remark, in the first place, that change admonishes us of the transitory nature of terrestrial good. Exactly in proportion as calamity is deferred, confidence is strengthened; and if evil be slow in coming, men easily persuade themselves that it will never come. If for many years there have been no eruption of the volcano, from whose outbreak the peasantry had fled with every demonstration of terror, cottages will again be built around the treacherous mountain, and the smiling gardens clustered on its side; but if the cottages were swept away year after year by fresh descents of the fiery flood, we may be sure that the peasants, however attached to the place, would be finally wrought up to the abandoning it altogether, and seeking a home in some more secure, if less lovely place. And it may be, that with some of you the chain still binds, and the garment is still worn, because "they are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other folk." Then may the Almighty God send them trouble! Come anything rather than indifference, and apathy, and carnal security; anything, rather than that settling down of the soul in earthly comforts and entanglements, in which there is no disturbance, till from it there is no escape.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.